Why does Brass Jewellery Tarnish?

Jewelry tarnish is caused when the surface of the metal comes into contact with with body oils, makeup, sulfur, sweat, fumes, deodorants, lotions and pollution.

Tarnish varies from looking slightly dull to totally black depending on the metal and how one wears the jewelry.

Metals such as brass naturally tarnishes over time, due to the presence of copper within the metal. It’s very common for copper to oxidize naturally.

However, to prevent the oxidation, most jewellers use gold plating over the brass to give it both a gold look as well as to prevent oxidation.

The thickness of the gold plating is extremely important as it protects the brass from tarnishing. However, gold plating is an expensive ordeal in relative to the cost of brass, and most mass-market brands will coat the brass with a very thin layer which might look great in the short term but will tarnish very fast.

At Michelle Alexander, we make sure all our brass products are 18K Gold Plated with a half micron thickness which is a worldwide standard.

On top of that we put a combination of liquid (primarily lacre) to add an extra layer of protection on all our brass pieces. (See schematic below)

Schematic of Gold Plated Brass Jewelry

This is one of the reasons we are able to provide dated warranties on all our brass products.

If a brand or marketplace isn’t really giving you some kind of product assurance, can you really trust how long it may last?

In my experience, I have seen plenty of brands offer ridiculously low prices for some of their products.

The only question I pose in that situation is – Do they tell you the thickness of the gold plating? Is the brass being used nickel free? What is the karat of gold plating? What is the warranty for the products?

I’m sure most of you are already aware of these points, but I thought it was important to reiterate them.

With the rise of costume jewellery, artificial jewellery and gold-plated brass jewellery, it is important to understand the nuances so that you are getting the most worth out of your hard-earned money.

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